The Best Configurations for Getting the Job Done
There is no question that pickups are popular in North America. But they’re not inexpensive. Loaded models can reach well into the $70,000 USD range. Not all consumers need a loaded truck, though. With 14 pickup models on the market (separating light-duty and heavy-duty full-size models), we’ve found the best configurations for payload and towing capacity. Where Chevrolet and GMC models are mechanically identical, we mention them together.
2015 Nissan Frontier
Midsize pickups are ideal for use as delivery trucks in congested urban areas. The Nissan Frontier King Cab SV V6 4×2 has a payload of 1,471 pounds (667 kg) with the six-speed manual or 1,449 pounds (657 kg) with the five-speed automatic. Max towing capability is rated up to 6,500 pounds (2,948 kg) with either transmission. The two-wheel-drive Frontier King Cab SV has the highest payload and tow rating of any Frontier configuration.
2015 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab V6 4×2 PreRunner
Powered by an available 4.0-liter V-6 with 235 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, the two-wheel-drive Toyota Tacoma Access Cab PreRunner has a payload rating of 1,500 (680 kg) pounds and max tow rating of 6,500 pounds (2,948 kg). Stepping up to the Double Cab with short bed (pictured) retains the max tow rating, but payload drops to 1,305 pounds (592 kg).
2015 Chevrolet Colorado / GMC Canyon
The midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups are available with either a 2.5-liter I-4 with 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque or a 3.6-liter V-6 rated 305 hp and 369 lb-ft. An extended cab model with the 6-foot bed is the most affordable body style. A two-wheel-drive model with the four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic can haul up to 1,580 pounds (717 kg) with the 6-foot-2-inch bed. Max towing for that configuration is 3,500 pounds (1,587 kg).
Stepping up to the V-6 engine with the Z82 trailering package increases towing capacity to 7,000 pounds (3,175 kg) regardless of configuration. The highest payload rating with the V-6 engine is 1,560 pounds (708 kg) with the crew cab body and short 5-foot 2-inch bed and two-wheel-drive. A new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel, rated 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, will arrive for the 2016 model year. That model can tow up to 7,700 pounds (3,493 kg) with two-wheel drive and up to 7,600 pound (3,447 kg) with four-wheel drive. Fuel economy is expected to beat the 2.5-liter’s 19-20/25-27/21-22 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating. With its carlike refinement, we gave the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado the Motor Trend 2015 Truck of the Year award.
2015 Nissan Titan King Cab 4×2
With a 5.7-liter V-8 rated 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque and a standard five-speed automatic, the Nissan Titan King Cab S 4×2 has a max payload rating of 2,102 pounds (953 kg) and a max tow rating of 7,400 pounds (3,356 kg). For those needing more towing capacity, the Titan King Cab SV can tow up to 9,500 pounds (4,309 kg), but payload drops to 2,053 pounds (931 kg).
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT / 2015 GMC Sierra
The two-wheel-drive Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups with 8-foot box is a fine work truck. Additionally, the base 4.3-liter EcoTec V-6 makes 285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque on regular gas and 297 hp and 330 lb-ft on E85. Even on conventional fuel, the Silverado’s 4.3-liter produces the most torque of any V-6 engine in a half-ton truck. The Silverado can handle 1,980 pounds (898 kg) in its long box and tow up to 5,900 pounds (2,676 kg).
Stepping up to the 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8 with 355 hp and (380 hp) and 383 lb-ft (416 lb-ft) increases towing capacity to 9,800 pounds (4,445 kg) without sacrificing payload (the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ and GMC Sierra SLE regular-cab are pictured).
2015 Toyota Tundra Regular Cab 8.0-Foot Bed 4×2 with 5.7-liter V-8
Of all the Toyota Tundra models, a two-wheel-drive regular cab model with the 8-foot bed and the available 5.7-liter V-8 has the highest payload rating of 2,080 pounds (943 kg) (a Double Cab model is pictured). With 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, the same configuration can tow up to 10,500 pounds (4,763 kg). This cab, bed, and drivetrain combination returns the highest payload and towing ratings.
2015 Ram 1500 Regular Cab 8.0-Foot Bed 4×2
A two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 Regular Cab and 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 can haul up to 1,900 pounds (862 kg) in its 8-foot bed thanks to the engine’s 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. With the available 3.55:1 rearend gear ratio, the V-6 can also tow up to 7,280 pounds (3,302 kg). Stepping up to the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft and available 3.92:1 gear ratio increases towing capability up to 10,650 pounds (4,831 kg), though payload drops to 1,720 pounds (780 kg).
If fuel economy is more important than max payload and towing capacity, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft delivers. The small turbodiesel returns an EPA-rated 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined—the highest fuel economy rating of any full-size pickup. Max payload with the EcoDiesel and 3.92:1 gear ratio is rated 1,500 pounds (680 kg), and max towing is rated at 9,200 pounds (4,173 kg).
2015 Ford F-150
Although the Ford F-Series Super Duty is a serious workhorse, some people need a lighter duty work truck such as the aluminum-intensive 2015 Ford F-150. A base two-wheel-drive Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab with an 8-foot bed and the 3.5-liter V-6 makes an affordable work truck. With its 282 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, the base F-150 XL can haul up to 1,910 pounds (866 kg) in the bed and still tow a respectable 7,600 pounds (3,447 kg).
For those needing more carrying capability, the 385-hp, 387 lb-ft, 5.0-liter V-8 can haul up to 3,300 pounds and tow up 11,100 pounds, and the 365-hp, 420 lb-ft, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 can haul up to 3,270 pounds (1,483 kg) and tow up to 12,200 pounds (5,534 kg).
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD / 2015 GMC Sierra 3500HD
The Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD and GMC Sierra 3500HD pickup twins offer several different configurations for towing and hauling. A four-wheel-drive 3500HD Regular Cab model with an 8-foot bed and dual rear wheels and the 397-hp, 785 lb-ft of torque, 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V-8 can tow up to 23,200 pounds (10,523 kg) with a fifth-wheel hitch or 16,000 pounds (7,257 kg) with a standard receiver. That model can also haul up to 5,817 pounds (2,638 kg) in the bed. The best model for conventional towing would be the same truck but in the Crew Cab body style. That model can tow up to 19,600 pounds (8,890 kg) or a still impressive 22,600 pounds (10,251 kg) with a fifth wheel. Payload is rated 5,205 pounds (2,361 kg).
If bed capacity is your No. 1 priority, then a two-wheel-drive 3500HD Regular Cab with the 8-foot bed and dual rear wheels powered by the 360-hp, 380-lb-ft, 6.0-liter gas V-8, which can haul up to 7,374 pounds (3,345 kg) in the bed. Towing capacity is 14,200 pounds (6,441 kg) with either the traditional receiver or a fifth-wheel hitch.
2015 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Regular Cab 4×2 Dual Rear Wheel
With its 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel I-6 rated 385 hp and 865 lb-ft torque, the two-wheel-drive Ram 3500 Heavy Duty with dual rear wheels can tow up to 30,000 pounds (13,608 kg). Payload is a respectable 6,580 pounds (2,985 kg). The 2016 model is now rated at as much as 900 lb-ft with a tow rating of up to 31,200 pounds (14,152 kg).
Swapping from the Cummins turbodiesel to the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 gas engine rated 383 hp and 400 lb-ft in the otherwise same configuration increases the max payload capacity to 7,390 pounds (3,352 kg), but max towing capacity drops to 16,520 pounds (7,493 kg).
2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty
If towing is the most important requirement for your truck, the Ford F-450 Super Duty can deliver. The massive truck comes in just one configuration: a crew cab body style with an 8-foot bed and dual rear wheels, four-wheel drive, and the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8. With 440 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque from the Power Stroke engine and the standard 4.3:1 rear axle ratio, the Ford F-450 Super Duty can tow up to 19,000 pounds (8,618 kg) from a conventional receiver and up to 31,200 pounds (14,152 kg) with a fifth-wheel gooseneck hitch. The F-450 has a maximum payload of 5,450 pounds (2,472 kg).
For those whose payload needs are more important than their towing needs, another F-Series Super Duty might fit the bill. A two-wheel-drive Ford F-350 Regular Cab with an 8-foot bed and dual rear wheels can haul up to 7,260 pounds (3,293 kg). Equipped with either the 6.2-liter (316-385 hp, 397-405 lb-ft) V-8 gas engine or Power Stroke turbodiesel, that model can also tow up to 12,500 pounds (5,670 kg) from a receiver hitch. With a fifth-wheel setup it can tow up to 15,900 pounds (7,212 kg) with the gas engine or 16,700 pounds (7,575 kg) with the turbodiesel.